April 27, 2011

CANADA: Iranian director finds new voice in Niagara

NIAGRA, Ontario / Niagra Falls Review / Voice in Niagra / April 27, 2011


 Even at 86, Derek Tidd has a voice that can fill a room. It's what got him the gig as Official Town Crier of Niagara Falls.

And it was that voice that landed him a voice acting job in the film Black Noise, shot in Niagara Falls last fall by acclaimed Iranian director Behrooz Afkhami. What he didn't count on was actually starring in the film.

Tidd was originally just supposed to provide narration for the lead character of Peter Martin, an elderly man fighting the effects of Alzheimer's. He wakes up one day believing his wife has gone missing. As he tries piecing things together, his daughter relocates him to a retirement home.

Afkhami was so taken by Tidd's look and acting prowess, he switched gears and put him on screen.

"By witnessing his amazing performance during the rehearsals, I became certain that he could star in the lead role," says the director. "Later, we actually saw that we were right.

"The greatest luck we had during the production of this film was the discovery of Derek Tidd."

Post-production work recently wrapped on the film, which was filmed mainly at Niagara Falls retirement home Cavendish Manor. Behrooz Afkhami, who has twice broken the Iranian box office record in his 30-year career, is seeking a distributor and aims to enter Black Noise in the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

Acting isn't such a great leap for Tidd, who was part of a repertory theatre 60 years ago in England and formed the Globe Players – consisting of Globe & Mail employees – when he came to Canada in 1956.

A friend who knew of Tidd's stage experience passed his name on to someone from the production crew.

"I was thrilled," says Tidd, whose only film experience was a small part in a movie shot in Port Dalhousie years ago called The Long Journey of Lucas B.

"All I did was say seven words and got paid $700."

Once he landed the part, he surprised plenty of crew members.

"I'm 68 years old, but I'm in really good shape," he says. "The crew told me they were really concerned when they heard they were going to be working with somebody 86 years old! They really couldn't believe how I handled it."

Black Noise, based on Jeremy Cain's short story Black Sky at Night, first caught director Afkhami's attention in Iran. He wrote a treatment but wasn't able to start filming it until he moved to Canada last year. A trip to Niagara convinced him to make the film here, and Cavendish Manor proved ideal.

"We got help from everyone and they all assisted us with enthusiasm and kindness," says Afkhami. "I think many of the employees and residents of Cavendish Manor will end up in the movie, and it is very clear that it would be impossible to make this movie without them."

The film is also his first free of the restraints of Iranian censorship. Despite those barriers, he has watched the film industry in his country blossom.

"Iran has an internationally known cinema with something around 60 movies made every year," he says. "Iranian movies have been successful in Cannes, Oscars and many other festivals.

"There is censorship in Iranian cinema and part of this censorship is done by individuals who do not know their job very well and they are way too cautious.

"But Iranian filmmakers have somehow found their way and fought limitations and censorship. They have also been able to make some great movies. I have also made movies in Iran and I hope that, in the future, I can make more movies in my country."

John Law

© 2011 , Sun Media Corporation